The end of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is less than two weeks away. Latinos have a lot to gain from enrollment, particularly those with preexisting conditions such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, and HIV.
Melissa Torres, a program coordinator at NCLR affiliate Latino Community Services (LCS) in Hartford, Connecticut, works to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community and other at-risk populations. They also strive to improve the health and quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition to her work on two programs at LCS that target young Latino and Black men who have sex with men, Melissa is an in-person assister helping people enroll in ACA health coverage.
"I think it's important for those who have HIV or other chronic illnesses to ... sign up for coverage, because unlike before, you can still get coverage [even if you have] a preexisting condition," said Torres.
Despite these advantages, Torres has found that clients still have concerns about enrolling in health insurance.
"It's a tough situation to be in when you have to think about whether or not you can afford health care because you are already living paycheck-to-paycheck as it is," said Torres. "If you don't get coverage, you have to pay a penalty. For some, it's a lose/lose situation."
Josefina,* an LCS client who is HIV-positive, came to the United States nearly five years ago from Panama. Case managers at LCS recently helped her enroll in a qualified health plan. While some of the questions took longer to answer and the Internet was a bit slow, Josefina is happy to have enrolled in insurance under the Affordable Care Act. She says she feels more confident now that she has health insurance; however, she does need more information around her co-pays and deductibles.
If you are also confused about health insurance terms, help is available in English and Spanish. If you are helping people with HIV enroll in health insurance, there are resources to make the process easier.
The deadline to enroll in health insurance for 2015 through the Affordable Care Act is Feb. 15. If you are in the Hartford area, Latino Community Services can help. LCS has two staff members at the agency who are trained in-person assisters, so it has become very easy and convenient to help people enroll. The agency is open every Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for enrollment assistance.
*Name changed to protect anonymity
This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.